The Epistles of Ovid

The Epistles of Ovid
By P. Ovidius Naso
London J. Nunn, Great-Queen-Street; R. Priestly, 143, High-Holborn; R. Lea, Greek-Street, Soho; and J. Rodwell, New-Bond-Street 1813

Perseus Documents Collection Table of Contents

Penelope to Ulysses

Phyllis to Demophoon

Briseis to Achilles

Phaedra to Hippolytus

Oenone to Paris

Hypsipyle to Jason

Dido to Aeneas

Hermione to Orestes

Deianira to Hercules

Ariadne to Theseus

Canace to Macareus

Medea to Jason

Laodamia to Protesilaus

Hypermnestra to Lynceus

Sappho to Phaon

Paris to Helen

Helen to Paris

Leander to Hero

Hero to Leander

Acontius to Cydippe

Cydippe to Acontius

Funded by The Annenberg CPB/Project


Rouse now your courage, and boast of your warlike deeds. She has taken the name of hero, because you were unworthy of it; and is as much above you, as it was a harder task to subdue you, the greatest of conquerors, than those whom you overcame. The glory of your actions redounds to her. Resign your claim of praise: a mistress has become

heir to your trophies. For shame! do you suffer the bristly hide, torn from the ribs of the savage lion, to enfold her feeble limbs? Weak man, to be thus deluded! These are not the spoils of the lion, but yours: you have indeed triumphed over the savage monster; but she triumphs over you. A woman, scarcely able to sustain the distaff loaded with wool, bears the darts dipped in the poison of the Lernan Hydra; she has armed her right hand with the club which could subdue the most ferocious beasts; and has viewed in a mirror the armour of her spouse. These things, indeed, I only heard, and was willing to disbelieve common report; but now the mournful tale forces itself upon my senses. A foreign harlot is caressed in my sight; and it is no longer in my power to hide what I suffer. I am not even allowed to be absent. The captive, whom I behold with unwilling eyes, is led through the midst of the city, not in the manner of slaves, with her hair disheveled, and hiding her face in token of her disaster; but in triumphal pomp, adorned with shining gold, and clad in the same attire which you wore when in Phrygia. She carries her dead high amidst the captives subdued by Hercules, as if chalia still stood, and her father yet existed. Perhaps too, laying aside the name of mistress, she will be received as your spouse, and Deianira of tolia be ba-

nished from your bed. An impious marriage may join, in unchaste bands, Iole the daughter of Eurytus, and the infatuated Alcides. My mind sickens with the apprehension; a shivering coldness spreads itself over all my limbs; and my languid hands lie motionless upon my knees. You loved also me among many others; but your love to me was without a crime. Think it no dishonor that twice you fought victorious in my behalf. Achelous gathered his shattered horns upon his oozy banks, and plunged his mutilated temples in the muddy stream. Nessus the Centaur fell near the stream of fatal Evenus, and tinged the waters with his unnatural blood. But why do I now mention these things? Even while I write, Fame brings me the news that my husband perishes by the poison of the shirt that I sent him. Alas! what have I done? Whither has my despairing love driven me? Impious Deianira, do you yet doubt whether you should die? Shall your husband perish miserably on Mount

ta; and you, the cause of that barbarous crime, survive? If aught yet remains to be done by which I may shew myself the wife of Hercules, death shall be the confirmation of our union. You also, Meleager, shall own in me a true sister. Impious Deianira, do you yet doubt whether you should die? Oh! ill-fated house! Agrios usurps the lofty throne, and a desolate old age oppresses neus. My brother Tydeus wanders an exile on unknown coasts: the other perished alive in devouring flames. My mother transfixed her heart with steel. Impious Deianira, do you yet doubt whether you should die? It is my only request, by all the most sacred ties of marriage, that I may not be thought to have betrayed you to your fate. Nessus, when his breast was pierced by the flying arrow, said to me, "This blood of mine contains the powers of love." I sent you a robe stained with the poison of the Centaur. Impious Deianira, do you yet doubt whether you should die? And now, my aged sire, and sister Gorge, adieu. Farewell, my country, and my brother, banished from your native home. Adieu, light of day, the last to my now fading eyes. Farewell, my husband, (Oh that thou could'st fare well!) Hyllus, my dear Hyllus, adieu!

Poem 10

Ariadne to Theseus

BEASTS of the most savage nature have proved more mild and gentle to me, than you; nor could I have been intrusted to more faithless hands. The epistle which you now read, Theseus, is sent to you from that shore, whence your ship, leaving me behind, was borne by the spreading sails; where soft sleep, and you also, who barbarously watched the opportunity of my slumbers, fatally betrayed me. It was the season when the earth begins to be covered with shining frost, and the birds, lurking among the leaves, complain of the decaying year; when, half awake, and still in slumber languidly reclining, I stretched my arms to grasp my Theseus. No Theseus was there: I suddenly pulled back my hands, and then tried once more to find him. I wandered with my arms over all the bed: still no Theseus was there. Fear instantly shook off sleep: I started up in a consternation, and headlong threw my limbs fiom the deserted bed. Forthwith my breast resounded with the repeated strokes of my hands; and I tore my hair, as yet disheveled from sleep. The moon shone: I looked round if I could discern any thing besides the shore. My eager eyes found nought to look at but the shore. I ran sometimes here, sometimes there, and with wild disorder on either side: the deep yielding sands impeted my tender feet. Mean-while the hollow rocks over all the shore resounded the name of Theseus to my incessant cries. As often as I named you, the place re-echoed the sound: the very place seemed willing to alleviate my wretched lot. Near the spot was a mountain, whose top was thinly covered with tufted shrubs; and where a steep rock, undermined by the beating waves, impended. I mounted the ascent: my passion gave me strength; and thence with wide prospect I surveyed the mighty deep. Hence (for the winds also were cruelly unkind) I could observe your sails full-stretched by stiff southern gales. I either saw, or, when I thought I saw, remained cold as ice, and half-dead with concern. Nor did grief long permit this indolent respite: I was roused by that sensation; I was roused, and in a loud complaining strain called upon Theseus: "Whither do you fly? Return, perjured wretch, change your course; the ship has not her complement." Thus I complained: I made up in shrieks what was wanting in articulate sounds, and mingled my words with repeated blows upon my breast. My hands, waved high in the air, made signs, that, if you could not hear, you might at least perceive me. I also held out a white robe upon a long pole, to admonish you of her whom you had left behind. But, alas! I soon lost sight of you; it was then I began to weep; my tender cheeks had hitherto been stiffened with grief. What could my eyes do better, after ceasing to behold your sails, than help me to bemoan my forlorn state? Sometimes I wandered solitary, with my hair disheveled, like the raving priestesses inspired by the Theban God. Sometimes, fixing my eyes upon the sea, I silently seated myself upon some pointed rock, cold and senseless as the stone whereon I sat. Often I repair to the bed which once sheltered us both: Alas! it will never more exhibit the once happy lovers. I kiss the print left by your dear body, and love to repose myself upon the spot which your dear joints have warmed.